I would dream about India. A few years back, I dreamed of the Taj Mahal, and I woke up with goosebumps. In real life, we never saw the Taj Mahal. Perhaps that is best, maybe it's for the next time. It's been a little over a week since we were in India, and I'm back in my new home in Phnom Penh. It's a new year, but somehow it feels like the end of something.
The ending could have been anything. But we found this place, and we found the badlands, and in the badlands we found fields of yellow flowers. This is special to me. We went down the road and at the end of it is a palace, a fortress, places you can explore and pretend in. Where maharajahs slept, where maharanis chattered. We walked in the streets and into the havelis, where the palace looks upon the whole land. I remembered a time I never knew, a time when life was set in places of fables and fantasy. Thought about how it still was. Sat on rooftops and watched children fly their kites. Looked for the trees where the kites went to die. Got on a rickshaw and rode away, into the sleepy little towns where everyone is sitting and is wanting a photograph. The doors are open and they ask you to come have chai in their homes. Where peacocks walk the streets and do their silly little dances. Men in their turbans and women in their sarees and children in their laughter. The houses are painted in many different colors and the people are, too.
Gandhi says India lives in her villages, so we went to find her there. I don't think my search is over, but I found more than what I had asked for. I always do, when I decide to take a look. But taking a look is not always as easy as I thought it would be.
It wasn't until Jon and I were driving away from the Bangkok airport that I realised how leaving India felt like an ending. That's what these places mean to me. It is with disbelief that I write this. In the last four months I was in seven countries, and with eyes closed and a lot of fears, I moved from one to the other. I left my home for 23 years. The urgent wanderlust I used to feel has been replaced with conflicting feelings of gratitude, travel frustrations, and then missing home. And in between all of that is the quiet. We found it in these unreal places.
Bigger photos and final edit on hannah.ph/rural-rajasthan